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Dieppe Channel Hopper

We’re lucky to have a ferry port on our doorstep, so to speak, which means that France is only four hours away. And, of course, the quiet country roads and véloroutes of France are a great place to go cycling. So, with that in mind, nine Cycle Seahaven tourers hopped across the Channel to Dieppe for three days of cycling over the May Bank Holiday Weekend.

The English Channel was like a mill pond as we sailed from Newhaven to Dieppe, arriving mid-afternoon. After booking into our hotel, the Hôtel de la Plage, we sampled some of the delights of Dieppe including the famous Café des Tribunaux, see picture below.

Tourers inside the famouse Cafe des Tribunaux in Dieppe

Next morning was a delayed start as we waited for the rain to pass. It eventually passed so we set off mid-morning through the streets of Dieppe and into the countryside towards Neufchatel-en-Bray. It was an easy ride along the mostly traffic-free Avenue Verte to Neufchatel where we had an excellent lunch. On our return journey we were surprised to find a newly constructed part of the Avenue Verte for the final few kilometres into Dieppe; so new that it hasn’t been officially opened yet!

Next day we cycled out of Dieppe towards Pourville for the start of another superb greenway, the Véloroute du Lin, on our way to St Valery-en-Caux for lunch. The weather was superb and we were able to have our lunch outside a cafe; suntan lotion was applied probably for the first time on a bike ride this year. Then it was back to Dieppe along the coast on the Véloroute du Littoral although this was mostly along quiet roads.

Tourers on a newly constructed part of the Avenue Verte in Dieppe

For our third day of cycling, by popular request, we climbed the long hill into the Forêt Domanale d’Arques. We had climbed this hill on a previous channel hopper; it’s quite challenging in that it isn’t too steep but climbs for about 1½ kms. After that we headed to Criel-Plage at speeds we’re not used to as tourers; we felt like sportives! I have to admit that we were aided by some strong tail winds and some long downhill and flat stretches.

After a cafe stop at Criel-Plage we returned to Dieppe for a late lunch, afternoon tea at our hotel where we picked up our luggage and a pleasant evening mini-cruise across La Manche to Newhavem.

All in all, this has been three great days of cycling, some highly convivial evenings and lots of fun. Same again next year?

This cycling trip was organised through Phoenix-CTC, a member group of Cycling UK.

Bon cyclisme

Clive

A record Year for the Tourers

Tourers brave a wet and windy New Year’s Eve for their final ride of 2017: Lakeside Café at Horam

It’s been another record year for the tourers: 120 touring rides in 2017, an increase of 15% on the 2016 total of 103 rides. There would have been more but some were cancelled due to bad weather.

Also, anyone who’d been on all these rides in 2017 would have cycled just over 4100 miles, an increase of 17% on the 2016 total of about 3500 miles. That gives a mean figure of about 34 miles cycled per ride this year.

Most of our rides have been between 25 and 50 miles with Ripe, Muddles Green and Bexhill being popular destinations. However, there have been a few longer distance rides such as Littlehampton (70 miles) and even the Downs Link (100 miles) although, as sections weren’t really suitable for a road bike, it won’t be repeated.

Although it’s very pleasant cycling along the local country lanes and the promenades and cycle paths of the coastal strip we occasionally do some ‘Away-Day’ rides for a change of scenery. The Viking Trail in Kent and cycling over the Romney Marsh are two examples of such rides. We aim to do more of these in 2018.

Apart from the Cycle Seahaven rides many of the tourers have been doing other rides as well. Heather Cheek cycled across Iowa in RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). Others took part in two Phoenix-CTC rides, a cycling trip to the Loire Valley and a channel hopper to Dieppe. In addition, some did a cycle tour of Upper Normandy as well as cycling through France from the Med to the English Channel. In fact, Joe Hamilton has cycled more than 7,000 miles this year; that’s more than some of us have driven in our cars!

All our rides include refreshment stops and during the year our list has grown to 41, mostly cafés. The following link Refreshment Stops shows the locations and brief details of them; all are welcoming to cyclists.

It’s certainly been an active year for the tourers but we are few in number; we’d like to see more. At present our rides are graded at level 3 so are aimed at those who can maintain an average speed of about 12½ mph; a comfortable pace where one can chat without being out of breath. However, to widen the appeal of touring rides we are considering introducing some at level 2 in the Spring where the average speed will be about 10 mph.

Watch this space!

May we wish you a Happy and Safe Cycling New Year,

Clive Aberdour        Dave Sutton

A Perfect Autumn Cycle Ride

Cyclists outside the Di Paolo Café in Bexhill

Thursday was a superb day, dry and sunny with no wind: the perfect autumn day for cycling. Our destination was Bexhill, one of our favourite destinations for a ride. It’s a virtually flat route apart from Chapel Hill just after the start; in fact roads don’t get much flatter than Rickney Lane which we cycled along to cross the Pevensey Levels!

This made for easy cycling, especially as there wasn’t a headwind so we cruised along at a rate of knots more familiar to the Intermediates and Sportives! it didn’t seem long before we reached Bexhill and was cycling along the promenade towards our café stop at the Colonnade, underneath the De La Warr Pavilion.

We were surprised to find the Colonnade fenced off. (It appears that ‘Tea Beside The Sea’ café has permanently closed; the lease expired). However, there’s no shortage of cafes in Bexhill so we soon found one the other side of the De La Warr Pavilion called ‘Di Paolo Café’. What a super place: friendly staff, good food and drink and quite large inside so plenty of tables and chairs. It’s since been added to our Refreshment List.

This list now has over 40 cyclist friendly refreshment stops that the tourers are happy to use. Most are in Sussex but a few are in Kent and the Seine-Maritime department, just across the English Channel in France. This list may be of use to anyone who is planning a ride and looking for somewhere to stop for a rest and some nourishment.

Cyclists at the rather spooky Arlington Tea Garden

The first place on the Refreshment List is the Arlington Tea Garden which we’ve been stopping at for many years, often on a Thursday when returning to Exceat on our longer distance rides. It’s only about six miles back to the finish at the car park in Friston Forest. Thursday was no exception. We’d made good time and the sun was shining so we called in for a cuppa. We were impressed by the Halloween decorations.

All in all this had been a perfect autumn cycle ride: excellent weather for the time of year, great company and two super refreshment stops.

Happy cycling,

Clive

Tourers visit the Lavender Line

It was off to the Lavender Line at Isfield for the tourers on Sunday, a round trip of 43 miles, to visit one of our favourite refreshment stops, Cinders. It’s the station buffet which is run by volunteers and, as you walk in, you feel as if you’re going back in time to the days of steam. There are plenty of old railway signs and pictures adorning the walls which add to the interest. After getting our drinks we decided to sit outside on the platform and admire the trains; there was certainly plenty happening!

The ride to and from Isfield took us along some very pleasant country lanes passing through Laughton and Palehouse Common on the outward trip, coming back via Glynde on the return trip. At this time of year of course, the leaves of the hedgerows and trees are changing colour so we’ll soon be doing some Autumn Colours rides, similar to last year. As usual, details will be on the Rides Calendar.

Happy cycling,

Clive

More Refreshment Stops

The Refreshment Stops map has recently been updated with a couple more café stops in Sussex and seven in Seine-Maritime. I’ve decided to start adding some in France as I know that some Cycle Seahaven cyclists hop across the Channel to Dieppe for a bit of cycling in the Seine-Maritime départment and, of course, some continue to Paris.

This map may be of use to anyone who is planning a ride and looking for somewhere to stop for a rest and some nourishment. All the stops on this map, mostly cafes, I’ve found to be cyclist friendly. Some are better than others but I’m not going to grade them, suffice to say that they’re of an acceptable standard. However, I will start adding a bit more detail to the descriptions which may prove useful, especially if there’s something unique about the place.

For example the café we visited today on our Sunday ride is a gem of a place. It’s the Castle Cottage Tearoom by the castle in Pevensey. As you enter the café you feel you’re going back in time to the 1930/40s; the background music reinforces that feeling. The service is very good as well and there’s a lovely garden to sit in; well worth a visit.

The following link will take you to the map: Refreshment Stops

There are now 37 refreshment stops on the map. More will be added whenever we find a café, tea garden or bar that we like and is cyclist friendly. None are shown in Seaford as they are too close to cycle to on a touring ride.

I hope you find it useful.

Happy café wheeling,

Clive

A Superb Long Touring Ride

Following our superb short touring ride on Tuesday five of us cycled to Littlehampton on Thursday, a round trip of 70 miles.

A ride along the coast to Littlehampton is completely different to our usual rides which are along picturesque country lanes. This trip mostly involves cycling along cycle paths and promenades but still very pleasant as we see a variety of seascapes.

We set off from the Martello Tower in Seaford on Thursday morning and were fortunate to be pushed along the promenade by a strong tailwind which made for easy cycling. However, the thought crossed our minds that this could become a challenging headwind for the return trip. We wondered whether we may have to cut the ride short at, say, Shoreham or Worthing.

We carried on at a fair pace. It wasn’t long before we reached Saltdean where we descended down the short steep hill onto the undercliff path. Then it was ‘plain sailing’ and apart from a small hill at Brighton Marina, it was virtually flat all the way to Littlehampton.

We seemed to reach Worthing quite quickly where we had a refreshment stop at the ‘Coast Café des Artistes’ on the seafront. The wind had died down somewhat so we decided to press on to Littlehampton for lunch.

Littlehampton was bathed in sunshine; it usually is when we cycle there! After fish & chips at the ‘Gallery Tea Rooms’ (very good value) on the promenade we started on our return trip. There was a slight headwind but nothing too challenging. However, cycling on flat terrain against a slight headwind means that there’s no opportunity to freewheel; you’re always pedalling! It was a bit tiring so, on reaching Rottingdean, we stopped at ‘Molly’s Café’ on the promenade for afternoon tea. After about 20 minutes and suitably refreshed, we set-off to cycle the final ten miles back to Seaford.

It had been a superb long touring ride. The three cafes we stopped at are on our Refreshment Stops list.

Happy cycling,

Clive

A Superb Short Touring Ride

We aim to have three touring rides each week: Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. The Tuesday rides are the shortest at approximately 25 miles; the ride today was no exception.

The weather conditions this morning were ideal for cycling: dry, sunny and virtually no wind. Eight of us gathered at the entrance to the car park in Friston Forest at 9.30 am and it wasn’t long before we were puffing and panting up Chapel Hill. As usual we took a breather at the top and admired the view before coasting downhill to Wilmington, passing the Long Man on the way.

Our destination was Ripe but rather than go directly there we took a more circuitous route via Chalvington and Golden Cross so we could spend more time enjoying the beautiful countryside as we cycled along some superb country lanes.

Ripe Village Stores

The café in Ripe Village Stores is one of our favourite refreshment stops and, as usual, we were warmly welcomed by the staff who are all volunteers. We lingered there for quite some time; elevenses almost became twelveses!

Then it was back on our bikes and, this time, we took a direct route back to the car park at Friston Forest. It had been a thoroughly pleasant morning of cycling, superb scenery and great company.

Our next ride will be to Littlehampton on Thursday, a round trip of about 70 miles. Thursday rides are our longest touring rides and are often over 50 miles.

Happy cycling,

Clive

The Photogenic Tourers???

Taking a decent action photo of cyclists can involve a bit of time and effort to set up; far easier to take a photo of cyclists sitting in a café drinking tea and coffee! However, when a group of Cycle Seahaven cyclists are passing the Art Deco inspired De la Warr Pavilion at Bexhill then it’s an opportunity not to be missed. After finding the best spot to take a photo, the cyclists roll past the Pavilion and a ‘burst’ of photos is taken. The best of that ‘burst’ is shown above; I feel it was worth that extra bit of time and effort!

Unfortunately, the cyclists are wearing their winter clobber so it’s not obvious that they’re members of Cycle Seahaven although you may recognise some of them. There was a chilly south westerly blowing so they donned extra clothing to keep warm.

We were cycling back from Hastings where we’d had lunch on the pier. It had been a beautiful Spring morning cycling from Exceat to Hastings and hardly a breath of wind could be felt. It made for easy cycling. As so often happens when we have lunch, a wind develops which invariably turns out to be a headwind for the return leg, or so it seems. Nevertheless, it wasn’t too much of a struggle and overall it was a pleasant cycle ride, a round trip of 56 miles.

The Thursday touring rides are our longest of the week so they usually involve two or three refreshment stops. Next Thursday our touring ride will be to Littlehampton, a round trip of about 70 miles. Perhaps they’ll be an opportunity for another action shot!

Happy cycling,

Clive

 

 

Terrific Turnout of Tourers

One of the strengths of Cycle Seahaven is that it caters for a broad range of cyclists: mountain bikers, hybrid and road cyclists, varying from beginner to experienced. A glance at the Rides Calendar shows that there’s a wide selection of rides on offer for them

Some of those rides are shown as ‘Touring’ which are aimed at experienced road cyclists who prefer to cycle at a touring pace, ie an average of about 12½ mph; a comfortable pace where one can chat without being out of breath. Numbers on these rides are usually modest but have been creeping up recently; the ride on Sunday to Chilley Farm Café attracted ten such cyclists, the highest number for many months.

As we congregated at the Martello Tower at 8.30 am on Sunday morning it was heartening to see a similar number of Sportive and Intermediate road cyclists (the faster riders); they were bound for the Lavendar Line at Isfield.

The weather on Sunday was superb and, judging from the number of cyclists on the roads, it was certainly tempting people to get out on their bikes. In fact, as we cycled alongside the dykes on the Pevensey Levels, it felt as if we were cycling in Holland!

It therefore came as no surprise to find the Chilley Farm Café busy with cyclists and walkers but, although we had to wait a little bit longer than usual for our ‘elevenses’, it didn’t matter. We were content to bask in the wall-to-wall sunshine and chat about sprockets, chain sets and all things cycling!

It was a great Sunday morning ride, a round trip of approximately 40 miles. Hopefully, we’ll have lots more of them this year!

Happy cycling,

Clive